~ ONE JOURNEY ~
~ There is only one journey: going inside yourself. ~
- Rainer Maria Rilke
Dirty Little Secret ~ Thursday, March 23, 2006
My dirty little secret (don't worry, Tom knows) is that I read the ends of novels--usually when I'm about fifty or so pages in. Sometimes a little further--it depends on how engaged I am by the book, but certainly well before I actually reach the ending by reading the book in a linear fashion.
Why? Those who do not do as I do may well wonder. Tom is incredulous and cannot believe that I would "ruin it"--the reading experience--that way.
Firstly, I am often disappointed in the resolution of a book (or of short stories that begin well and then just fall flat or get silly or in other ways. It just feels as if the writer didn't know where to take it, so he or she went for the easy way out--I am reminded of this as I read through some of the latest subs for Margin). Reading the ending for novels (it's not usually worth it for short stories, since they're short) at least assures me that it's not going to be an "it was all a dream" scenario or something equally silly and cliched. I don't always understand, out of context, what the resolution actually is, but if it seems interesting or reasonably complex, that's an assurance that I'm not going to be totally wasting my time.
Secondly, I often abandon books--if it doesn't hold me, I will put it down (sometimes with a touch of compunction, and sometimes with none at all) and will often not come back to it. Many are the books in my house with a bookmark still lurking somewhere amongst their pages. Reading the end will sometimes pique my interest and keep me reading to find out how the narrative reaches that end point.
Doing a quick skim over the final pages of a book generally just helps me determine if I think the book is worth the effort or not. Since for me the journey is at least as important as the destination--if not far more important--knowing the destination is worthwhile frees me to enjoy the journey with less of a niggling doubt about whether I'll be annoyed by the ending. Knowing the ending, for me doesn't ruin or undermine the journey, it enhances it.
As a writer, I also know how difficult it can be to craft a really satisfying ending--so I want some concrete assurance that the writer whose work I am reading has managed to do that, at least to some extent. I don't watch movies that way mainly because they're usually only a few hours long (aside from the logistics of trying to get to the end first, if it isn't on dvd)--a book is usually much more of a time commitment.
I should add, though, that there are some books or films where I haven't liked the ending but I've still felt the overall experience made the watching/reading worthwhile. But those tend to be the exception more than the rule. ::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 9:33 AM::::